The Ginger Ninjas do most of our touring by bicycle. This includes the band, the roadies, the system engineers, and all staff. No support vehicles are used when on the bike tour. Why wouldn’t you ride a bike? They don’t consume oil, don’t emit exhaust, take up little space on roads and parking lots, don’t make noise, and don’t consume a bunch of energy to manufacture.
A less obvious environmental benefit of bike touring is that we don’t buy, transport, plug-in, or dispose of nearly as much “stuff,” whether it be clothes, trinkets, electronics, equipment, extra guitars, etc. This is a simple reality of “whatever you buy, you carry.”
The band powered 98% of shows in the past year with the audiences’ legs. (It would probably be more accurate to say “they powered.”) At concerts, touring bicycles get propped up on kickstands; little generators make electricity that goes into the sound system. No nukes, no coal, no dams, no pollution.
Also, because the electricity is in limited supply, the Ginger Ninjas are forced to conserve it. This means that we use hyper efficient amplifiers, efficient stage lighting, and don’t plug in a lot of extra junk. The scarcity of a resource makes you think way more about how you use it. People who live off the grid in solar-powered houses never forget to turn out the lights because they know if they do their whole system might be completely dead in the morning! We also travel with folding solar panels for recharging batteries, laptop, cell phone, etc.
Posters and Fliers
Like many bands, we use the same poster for the whole tour, leaving a spot blank for adding info about tonight’s show. After the show, we (sometimes) make an effort to collect posters and use them again in the next city.
The band also tries to print fliers on already-used office paper. Virgin paper is incredibly energy intensive to make, as is recycled paper. Paper manufacturing is dirty business too, often using chlorine to bleach. Re-using it before it even goes away to be recycled (hopefully) is basically getting something for nothing.
The Ginger Ninjas buy used t-shirts at thrift stores and silkscreen them to sell. Merchandise is a way for them to support themselves so selling used t-shirts or other items is a compromise. Plus, each one is unique! Also, in Mexico we collected used grain bags at the mercado and had a seamstress cut and sew them into re-usable grocery bags with the Ginger Ninja’s logo screened on.
When the Ginger Ninjas do have to get clothes and gear, we try to find it used. This saves the energy of manufacturing and overseas shipping, plus the waste of new packaging, and ultimately means less stuff in the landfill. Plus, used clothes are almost always more cool…
The Ginger Ninjas eat organic, locally grown, mostly veggie, lovingly prepared food whenever possible.
When not riding bikes, we try to use public transportation or hitch. Buses and trains use less energy than cars and planes. Combining the long-distance capabilities of buses and trains with the self-sufficiency of load-carrying bicycles, you can get almost anywhere without a car. Once you feel this confidence, you’re likely to sell your car. And once you do that, your whole impact and outlook on the world changes.
Hitchhiking takes advantage of a vehicle that’s already burning gas whether you ride in it or not, so in essence your emissions while hitching could be considered zero. This assumes that you hitching has no impact on whether or not people choose to drive, i.e., that you’re not increasing demand for empty car seats that results in drivers trying to increase supply. (This is why hitching is different from, say, taking a plane. When you buy a plane ticket, you increase demand for seats—even though the plane is already flying—and make it more likely that total air travel will increase over time.)
When and if we take a plane flight on a tour, we will try to stay wherever we fly for a long tour, rather than get in the habit of quick there-and-backs.
Discouraging jet-set pop-ins
One of the problems with doing a really cool tour by bicycle is that it makes your friends want to come join you, which is great except that usually they want to “fly down for the weekend.” On the last tour, the band started to feel like these kinds of visits damaged the integrity of the trip and that in some way we were responsible for the emissions of the people who came to see them. So we made a rule that all visitors have to come for at least two weeks and all are encouraged to hitch, bus, train, rideshare, or bike to meet the gang. The rationale for the two weeks part is quite simply to help our friends slow down.